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Low-carbohydrate diets may be better for weight loss than low-fat diets

Low-carbohydrate diets may be better for weight loss than low-fat diets

Cutting high-carbohydrate foods may be more effective than cutting fat for weight loss and cardiovascular health, a new study finds.

Scientists said the results surprisingly showed that people who don't reduce their fat intake nonetheless can lose weight and reduce their risk factors for heart disease. That challenges a long-prevailing view that a low-fat diet is the key to better health for most.

The study enrolled 148 men and women without clinical cardiovascular disease and diabetes, of which half were instructed to limit their intake of carbohydrate-rich foods, which include sugary foods, grains, cereals and starches. The others were instructed to reduce their fat intake, which they did by cutting it to less than 30 percent of their daily energy intake, according to the researchers.

The participants, an ethnically diverse group, weren't asked to limit their overall calorie consumption.

The investigators collected data on weight, cardiovascular risk factors, and dietary composition at the beginning and end of a one-year period, and also at three and six months.

“The low-carbohydrate diet was more effective for weight loss and cardiovascular risk factor reduction than the low-fat diet,” wrote the scientists, Lydia Bazzano of the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in New Orleans and colleagues, reporting their results Sept. 2 online in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine. “Restricting carbohydrate may be an option for persons seeking to lose weight and reduce cardiovascular risk factors.”

“Low-carbohydrate diets are popular for weight loss, but their cardiovascular effects have not been well-studied, particularly in diverse populations,” the researchers also wrote. They added that participants in the low-carb group saw greater increases in HDL cholesterol, the so-called “good” cholesterol.

Dariush Mozaffarian, the dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in Massachusetts, who wasn't involved in the study, told the New York Times that “to my knowledge, this is one of the first long-term trials that's given these diets without calorie restrictions,” said. “It shows that in a free-living setting, cutting your carbs helps you lose weight without focusing on calories. And that's really important because someone can change what they eat more easily than trying to cut down on their calories.”

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